Ricky Eilerman: A Veteran’s Journey of Resilience and Transformation
Ricky Eilerman: A Veteran’s Journey of Resilience and Transformation
Story by Cindy Reid
Photography by April Smith, Railyard Media
The power of finding purpose can illuminate a life. For Ricky Eilerman, the courage and determination he has used to overcome adversity in his own life has brought him that power of purpose. By using his experiences to light the way for others, particularly fellow military veterans and sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Ricky has been able to turn darkness
Born and raised in Bel Air, Maryland, Ricky says his early years were “marked by a longing for more.” Growing up with limited resources, he often dreamed of a big brick house with a pool and “all the fun toys that came with it.”
Military life called to him and he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving from 2000 to 2005 during the Global War on Terror. Ricky was stationed in Mosul, Iraq, and ultimately earned the rank of Sergeant.
After his military career, Ricky continued his dedication to serving his country and community by becoming a professional firefighter. While certainly commendable, the experiences took a toll on him. Because he was battling PTSD, Ricky endured severe depression and anger in the years that followed his military service.
But as the proverb says, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” and so it was for Ricky. He met his wife Ivy, who became his anchor while helping him navigate through his struggles. It was through the birth of their son that Ricky found solace and a renewed sense of purpose. Embracing spirituality, Ricky discovered a path of healing and personal growth, replacing his anger and depression with acts of kindness and giving back to others.
Motivated by a desire to defy statistics, and inspired by his wife and children, Ricky sought to make a difference beyond his firefighting career.
Together with Ivy, he founded a company called “What the Effingham.” Although facing some criticism from the community for the company’s name, Ricky’s goal was to shed the negative stigma surrounding their beautiful county and transform it into a place of positivity and enjoyment. While he understood he couldn’t please everyone, Ricky found fulfillment in the happiness of those who supported their endeavors.
Continuing his entrepreneurial spirit, Ricky and Ivy, alongside their friend Zac Hayes from Savannah Fire, established Railyard Media after purchasing and renovating the building now known as The Railyard on Laurel Street in downtown Springfield. The venture aims to assist small businesses on a budget in creating media and establishing their online presence to help support small business growth in the area.
Furthermore, Ricky’s passion for old things and his affinity for Early American days led him to open 13 Stars, a themed venue with a speak-easy flair in the back of The Railyard. It’s where he can both indulge his love for antiques and provide a popular gathering spot for Springfield families.
Balancing his firefighting career with real estate, Ricky’s hard work and dedication paid off, allowing him to pursue careers that both provided for his family and benefited the community.
With a knack for interior design and a love for unique styles, Ricky and Ivy invested in several projects, becoming successful Airbnb hosts. The joy they found in renovating and decorating these spaces added a touch of magic to their guests’ experiences. (The full list of the short-term vacation rentals can be found at www.southerndestinationrentals.com)
Through Ivy’s expertise in mortgages and finance, Ricky utilized his VA benefits and fulfilled even more of the American dream. Today, as a full-time realtor at Sherman & Hemstreet/Southern Georgia Homes, he says he finds his work very satisfying, especially as it allows him to extend a hand and help others. His advice for buyers in today’s current market is to “Go ahead and make a move. The price may go down but it’s more than likely that the price of homes will continue to go up, so now is as good a time as any to make that lifetime investment.”
A career in real estate is also a good bet as he says, “We are a recession proof industry, especially in this high growth market.” Passionate about our area, he welcomes any and all inquiries regarding real estate, from folks who are ready to buy/ sell to those who are just starting to think about it. “Call me, you may be very surprised as to what we can do together,” he says. “Let’s talk!”
A Helping Hand for Vets
In this real estate position, Ricky is also a Military Relocation Specialist. He says when someone transitions out of the military, they don’t necessarily get the full picture of what resources are available to them as a veteran.
“Most people leaving military service do not have a full understanding of VA benefits. Basically, a vet has to do their own research, and it’s very helpful to reach out to fellow vets.”
He urges vets to call him, with no expectation or intention of buying or selling real estate, because “I am here to be a resource. My dad did that for me, and I want to get other vets on the same path.”
His own journey of personal growth made him acutely aware of the challenges faced by individuals battling PTSD, depression, and alcoholism. With empathy born from experience, Ricky aspires to become a counselor for those struggling with these issues, providing the support and guidance he wishes he had during his darkest moments. He says “It’s important not to give up and to try and reach out because help is available. I am available, others are available, and we are willing to do whatever it takes. “
Reflecting on the past two decades, Ricky emphasizes the importance of self-care and cherishing loved ones. His message to anyone suffering is one of hope, resilience, and the power of seeking proper support.
“Your goal is to compete with the person you were yesterday. Don’t compare yourself with others” he says. With an abundance of resources available, both physical and spiritual, Ricky urges individuals to “Take it one step at a time and not give up. Reach out, ask questions and you will discover the help you need.”
“I really enjoy the culture found here. I appreciate that many of us want progress and growth but not at the expense of losing our uniqueness and our ‘mom and pop’ businesses.”
Ricky says he loves finding the little towns that still dot the Georgia countryside. “Being in a small town that takes pride in its history and culture gives me hope for the future. We are so blessed to still have places to go and get away from the big city vibe.”
Ricky’s love of his community has also led him to volunteer in several different capacities, most recently as the Vice Chair at the Effingham YMCA, and the Vice Chair for the Downtown Development Authority in Springfield. He particularly loves projects that benefit children and downtown Springfield.
And as busy as they are, Ricky and Ivy make time for daily trips to the gym and lots of family fun. “We like to discover new places we haven’t been before, and we like hosting friends and having parties because we enjoy people. Being with good people and seeing new things—that’s what brings us joy.”
And building renovation. Ricky and Ivy are working on their sixth renovation, and he says “I love hearing the stories from previous owners about the houses they grew up in, homes I feel fortunate to be able to renovate and breathe new life into.”
Having come such a long way, Ricky’s extraordinary journey now illuminates the way for others. His inspirational story proves that with determination, support and the willingness to transform oneself, it is possible to overcome life’s challenges and find the path to a brighter future.
“If I can do it, you can do it” he says, “And reach out because I know we can do it together.”